06 December 2009

Good Ol' Mac and Cheese

I grew up on Velveeta Shells and Cheese.  I loved the stuff.  Gooey, smooth, a cute shaped pasta... I was in heaven.  My friends' moms were serving blue box with the powdered cheese.  Edible, of course, but it just didn't call to me... besides, it was a boring old macaroni noodle, not a shell!  And then my grandmother served something completely different.  A baked macaroni and cheese.  I just couldn't understand why she had to put it into the oven.  With boring old elbow macaroni as well.  I couldn't stand the stuff.  That's right, my grandmother made from scratch macaroni and cheese and I didn't like it.  Give me shells and cheese any day. 

When I went to college, I was subjected to college cafeteria food.  Easy Mac had just came out... using that powder stuff of course, but all of a sudden it tasted just fine.  I'm not sure if that's a comment on the food quality at the school or a comment on my taste buds.  Either way, the microwave became my friend.  Just stick in potato or a bowl of easy mac and I was good to go.  By the time I was a junior, my roommates and I had graduated to a (illegal in the dorms) George Foreman grill and made some killer grilled PB&J sandwiches.  If you know me well, you know I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches, but somehow they get transformed when you add a little pressure and heat from the GF.  Cold, boring food instantly transformed into a delightful hearty meal.  

Around the time I turned 24, I spent more time in the kitchen.  I was engaged and trying to cook for Jason, who actually had a few fantastic meals up his sleeve (his lasagna is amazing).  We were both on grad school stipends which don't pay much, so cooking was important.  I made meal after meal that FAILED to please him.  It was disheartening, but I had little experience in the kitchen (it was my brothers who had always helped with Thanksgiving dinner, not me).  So I kept on and eventually started making meals that he would like.  (No Shells and Cheese... he won't eat Velveeta)  I have developed quite the skill set too in the last (almost) four years.  

Jason was involved with The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, now called Twin City Stage, and this amazing group of people likes to throw parties, and everyone gets to bring their favorite dish.  I was the newbie, so I was scared the first time around.  What do I bring?  What will please?  And then I remembered my grandmother's macaroni and cheese.  By this time I was 26, my palate had grown up, and I was certain I would like it.  So I called my mom to get the recipe (I knew I had it in one of my cookbooks, but I couldn't find it).  My mom read the recipe to me and I just had to laugh.  It was so simple!  There was no way this would produce a fabulous mac and cheese (keep in mind I hadn't had the stuff in almost 20 years and didn't like it then).  But I tried it anyway and it was AMAZING!

I made it for every other party we went to, including a 2008 Election Night party where I turned it into Red, White, and Blue Macaroni and Cheese.  (I died half of the pasta red and half of it blue and used white cheddar... I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture.)

For the last party we attended, I was out of eggs, so I had to use Alton Brown's Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  It went over with the party just as well, but Jason still prefers my grandmother's recipe.  Occassionally I'll add broccoli and peas to make it a meal in one dish, but I still prefer it without additions.  Like my mom, I'm a mac and cheese purist.

Nanny's Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded*
2 eggs
8 oz. pkg. 
1/4 cup milk

macaroni according to directions on box.  Grease 2-qt casserole with butter.  Layer macaroni and cheese, starting with macaroni and putting pats of butter between layers.  Beat eggs with milk and pour over macaroni and cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

*Shred it yourself.  The rest of the recipe takes so little effort that you can invest a little time in the shredding process (or allow someone else to shred it and offer them a bit of the cheese as a reward).  You'll thank yourself for shredding it.

For parties, I always double the recipe.

Obviously, this time was one of the times I added broccoli.  If you do it, add the broccoli to the pasta in the last minute of cooking.  

While I LOVE white cheddar, I actually prefer yellow cheddar for Mac and Cheese.   Unfortunately, I cannot find yellow cheddar in block form, so I have to stick with white.  And I also know some of you out there love extra sharp cheddar, but just use sharp for this dish.  Sharp melts and shreds more easily.


  1. Going for bbq for Nick's b'day, but man this made me hungry for some of Nanny's cooking!

  2. 1. So glad you posted this because now I know how I'm going to use up some of the milk that I have (not sure why I didn't think of mac and cheese before).

    2. I have a picture of the red, white and blue mac and cheese! I'll have to send it to you.

  3. Mouth is WATERING. I love Mac and Cheese in ANY form. Even the blue box, Im afraid. But these look fab, especially with brocolli. Have you tried cauliflower and cheese? Its very popular in Britain. Its ranks pretty high in my books too. Tried a caul and cheese a few nights ago that was basic flour/milk/cheese sauce poured over lightly steamed cauliflower, then topped with breadcrumbs and toasted almonds then chunks of brie and put in the oven for a while. Wow.

    Great blog! I love food!

  4. I told Nanny you were making her mac & cheese. She laughed!


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